Tag Archives: Chaste

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Behold the Lamb 4: Refining Fathers

God always honors His Word and sacraments even if His servants act dishonorably. For example, I once had a pastor whose stellar preaching (some of his word-pictures still shed light for me on complex truths) coexisted with a trail of confusing seductions he initiated with women in our congregation. God’s Word prevailed (through our efforts and a long wait)–he was finally disciplined–but until then the congregation breathed toxic air. God sustains the faithful but sheep still suffer from sleazy shepherds. How much better for fathers of the faith to prepare for leadership through the splendid, humbling task of becoming chaste?

Here’s the rub. Due to the sexual abuse scandals in the Catholic Church, in which entire dioceses have been brought to their knees by multi-million dollar settlements for victims, the Church is now super wary of any sexual vulnerability in her priests and religious. In the sexual arena, avoiding litigation seems the Church’s greatest goal; she fumbles at forthright, compassionate dealing with her fathers and mothers who actually need help in order to become chaste. ‘Just be chaste, don’t be known’, she conveys today.

To misquote Simone DeBeauvoir: ‘We are not born chaste, we become it.’ How else do we grow into integrated men and women unless we come into the Light with our misdemeanors before they become felonies? How many priests and diocesan workers do I know who fall regularly into masturbation/porn cycles, habits born of disintegration that keep them disintegrated, hobbled by shame and wounded in their self-gift? Having sinned weakly, does each one have a responsibility to come boldly to the throne of grace? Of course!

But that requires context for church leaders, especially those who always handle the confessions of others. Does the Church provide clear, merciful, powerful, and effective relationships through which these ones can break fear and silence and quicken the journey toward self-mastery and gender integration? Today’s Church, though clear on the requirement of priestly chastity, fails to invite most priests into the messy process of becoming chaste. In part due to the litigious mess she is in. I can almost guarantee you that the majority of priests will not take a seminary course on sexual integration this year.

That is at least short-sighted. Failing to provide wise preventative measures for her weak servants sets the Church up for further scandals and reveals an unloving, unreal expectation toward them. Everyone, especially her saints, is sexually broken! Lust in its myriad forms touches all of us. So must we as the Church provide real life opportunities for leaders-in-formation to be rightly formed in the sexual arena, without fear of being buried for being broken. Better to breakdown in the arms of the saints than to break another through lust.

My wife Annette is right. She claims that ‘the best preparation for ministry lies in discipleship: persons gathering long enough with safe, powerful saints in order to know themselves honestly in their sexual and relational depths, and to be known by Jesus through these members of Christ.’

At first I thought she was overstating her case. She was not. We as the Church must guarantee that our ‘Fathers’ do not go–it-alone. We have seen what happens when they do. Fathers and Fathers-to-be especially need refining love. Bring it on God.

‘Make Your Church wise and tender and strong toward her servants. Help her to love them like a good mother and father, only better. Reveal Your almighty tenderness to prodigal elder sons and daughters, O God; give them a fighting chance to come clean and become whole. You can only love us if we expose ourselves to love. Make Your Church a place of where we can come broken, boldly.’

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Son-Stroke

‘The Spirit sent Jesus into the desert, and He was there forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended Him.’ (MK 1: 12, 13)

Lent exposes us, lays us bare. This year, Jesus prepared our Living Waters group to follow Him into the desert by gathering us for an all-day session on Valentine’s Day. Some wept as they considered the painful state of their stalled single lives or distressing marital ones.

We asked ourselves: ‘Is Jesus really enough for us?’ We talked and prayed together about the good gifts He is redeeming; we considered what it means to become authentically chaste and sacrificial offerings that confirm, not confuse, the dignity of others.

We acknowledged the crass and perverse ideas of worldly romance (‘50 Shades of Grey’, everyone?) that reach a fever pitch on Valentine’s; these idolatries drive us then deride us for falling prey once more to the myth that another can save us. Tempted again, we feel the ache and ask ourselves: ‘Are You Jesus really enough?’ He answers us with Lent, an invitation to follow Him into the desert.

He goes before us. We know in theory that He has already conquered the tempter and made ‘the burning sand a pool.’ (IS 35: 7) No matter: He asks us to go where we have not gone before, to pull away from any number of noisy distractions in order to face the One. Though we may have taken Lent seriously before, we have never faced these demons in this desert in the winter of 2015. Our world has revolved once more and we run the risk of devolving into yet another shade of gray unless we allow Him to refine us.

He does so by allowing us to face our hearts and to ask Him: ‘Jesus, are You really enough? If my single status does not change, or if my marriage does not improve, will I still trust You as the lover of my soul? Will I hold fast to Your call to stay true to You and others in my innermost thoughts, even as the onramps for adultery multiply?’

Jesus’ desert teems with wild beasts that seek to prey upon our deepest hungers, and angels who urge us to pray to the One; it is a place where our loneliness is exposed and where God alone can become our sufficiency.

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Mercy 9: Merciful Memory

‘Do you show contempt for the riches of His kindness, forbearance, and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you to repentance?’ (Romans 2:4)

merciful memory 9 berlewWe live in a day of contempt for God’s plan for human sexuality. In a California restaurant recently, I endured a group of women at table next to mine groping each other while leering at the evidently gay wait staff. Having struck down Prop. 8 and all restraint, the ‘golden state’ now leads the nation in gender-bending chaos. ‘The wicked freely strut about when what is vile is honored among men’ (PS 12:8).

Sinners’ contempt for holiness can tempt us to disdain. We can close up the ark of our hearts, pronouncing judgment on the rebels. Or we can open our hearts and ask God to have mercy on them. It helps to remember the mercy He had for us in our contemptuous ways.

I am reduced to tears whenever I read Luke 18: 9-14, the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. Luke wrote it specifically for those who ‘were confident of their own righteousness.’ He describes a Pharisee whose prayer is ‘about himself’ (v. 11): a hymn to his native virtue that sets him apart from obvious sinners.

In the glare of that verse I am exposed. Chaste now for years and oriented squarely toward my wife and adult kids, I am tempted to view that holiness as a product of my good choices, not ‘His kindness, forbearance, and patience.’ (Romans 2: 4) Such distortion primes me for unholy judgments toward the lost. Wow. Have I forgotten His kindness towards me when I strutted with the worst of them? Do I lose sight of the quiet sins I still commit: little ones like murder, hatred and lust of heart?

Mercy prompts me to remember the torturous fear that ‘this time I had gone too far’. And the generous wave of blood and water that rolled like a river on my pathetic life, serving justice through Love alone.

While the Pharisee prayed smug self-congratulations, the tax collector could only cry out: ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ (v. 13) God heard him because of his awareness of the gap that only God can fill. My prayer? Help me to remember that gap, Jesus. And the mercy that made all the difference.

Prayer Points:

    • Desert Stream/Living Waters: New York/New Jersey, Garry & Melissa Ingraham, Regional Coordinators. Please pray for the Ingrahams as they work to strengthen Living Waters and help start new groups throughout the NY/NJ area.
      • Restored Hope Network: The Portland Fellowship, Portland, OR. Jason Thompson, Director. Specialty: curriculum for struggling adults and youth, family and friends, wives/spouses, and speaking outreach.
        Carolina New Song, Columbia, SC. Bud Phaup, Director. Specialty: groups for men and families.
    • Courage: Please pray for those on the verge of assuming a gay identity and /or acting on their SSA, may God illuminate their minds and fill their hearts with His love.
  • Cor Project: Please pray that we would have the financial resources necessary to fulfill our mission.
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